Released in 2002, Bend It Like Beckham is an entertaining comedy drama film that revolves around Juliette and Jesminder’s passion for football. Juliette comes from a native British family who have nothing against the idea of a woman playing football; on the other hand, Jesminder finds it very difficult to convince her Indian Sikh parents to let her play her favorite sport as they believe that women should focus on more traditional priorities, such as family and marriage. One day, Juliette sees Jesminder (Jess) play football with a few friends and invites her to join the local women’s football team, thus presenting her with a crucial decision. All of a sudden, Jess finds herself having to choose between her greatest passion, i.e. football, and her family.
Everybody around her seems to know what is best for her and tries to persuade her to live the life they think would make her happy. Juliette wants her to keep playing football while discouraging her from getting involved with their coach, Joe, with whom she has been infatuated for a long time. Her parents want her to study, spend more time with her family, embrace her Indian culture, learn how to cook traditional foot, and act more like a lady so that she can also marry a good Indian man like her sister Pinky. Joe wants her to follow her passion and stand up to her family, as he believes that her parents do not know what is best for her. Despite everybody trying to influence her, Jess remains determined throughout the film until her father finally learns to appreciate her genuine passion for football and allows her to follow her dreams. Nevertheless, her family’s attachment to traditions prevent her from dating Joe.
Bend It Like Beckham clearly shows how deep an impact people’s opinions and expectations can have on our lives, no matter how strong or resilient. Psychological research has revealed that both parental influence and peer pressure can affect our behavior and decisions. As Pickhardt¹ pointed out, when children enter adolescence, they tend to use a combination of passive and active resistance to assert their newly-found independence, thus making it necessary for their parents to resort to more cooperative and indirect techniques to get their sons and daughters to do what they say. However, it is not uncommon for parents to expect their children to fulfill their unfulfilled dreams, thus projecting their own insecurities and ambitions on them. In this regard, many psychologists believe that overambitious parents who make crucial decisions about their children’s education and career without taking into consideration their needs, goals and skills, are likely to cause their children to suffer from depression, as well as various anxiety-related disorders; such parents tend to adopt a “spreadsheet” approach to parenting which is likely to be detrimental to children and adolescents’ psychological development².
In view of these considerations, it is evident that despite their good intentions, parents do not always know what is best for us, as most of them simply want us to become the men and women that they have raised us to be, without considering our actual dreams, natural inclinations, strengths and weaknesses. If we do not listen to our own minds and hearts, their expectations may even prevent us from finding happiness and satisfying our needs, thus making us miserable and chronically depressed. While it is true that decision making in adolescence is strongly affected by emotional and social factors (the main one being peer pressure), teenagers’ tendency to make risky decisions and disregard for potentially unpleasant consequences can be channeled in such a way to foster creativity and explore new paths³. Unfortunately, many parents and educators fail to understand that everybody should be able to forge their own destiny (as long as their physical and mental health allows them to make reasonable decisions, of course), thus discouraging young people from realizing their full potential and expressing themselves.
The truth is that nobody knows what we want and long for as well as we do, not even our teenage friends and acquaintances, whose thirst for independence and lack of experience may also cause them to project their own fears and aspirations onto us, thus making it difficult for us to remain focused on our actual priorities. Over the years, I have heard many adults say that if they had listened to their parents and friends, they would have never been able to find out what they really wanted in life. As the film “Bend It Like Beckham” shows, when parents and other adults resort to repressive and / or persuasive techniques to prevent young people from making any mistakes, they are likely to get a hostile response as nobody likes being told what to and how to think all the time, regardless of their age. Being mistakes a valuable source of knowledge, it is crucial that teenagers should learn from their own errors in order to discover who they really are and improve themselves. With every mistake we make, we learn something new, let go of our fears and evolve, thus becoming more accomplished, empathetic and experienced. It follows that while it is important to always listen to others and absorb as much information as we can from them, we should never let anybody impose their own dreams, expectations, aspirations, fears, beliefs or insecurities on us, no matter how much we love them or care about their opinion.